Annual Forum of Developing Country Investment Negotiators

The Annual Forum is the only global platform for government officials exclusively from developing and emerging economies to share experiences and lessons learned from investment negotiations.

The forum is more than just a meeting. It has evolved into a community of government officials determined to work towards systemic reform and to safeguard the best interests of their developing nations.

More than 140 officials from 70 countries and five regional organizations attended the 11th Annual Forum in Nairobi in February 2018. The Forum gives participants an opportunity to discuss emerging issues, review recent legal developments in the field, and engage in peer learning with fellow negotiators.

Forum participants remain engaged in the community through IISD's Investment Policy Network, regional meetings and peer-to-peer exchanges.

111 developing countries have attended our Annual Forum since it was launched in 2007.

For more information on past forums visit our project page.

Where developing country officials shape investment policy for sustainable development

Group photo from 11th Annual Forum in Nairobi, Kenya

For more than a decade, negotiators from developing countries have gathered to share experiences and discuss ways to design better deals and avoid crippling arbitrations.

The stakes keep getting higher.

Foreign investors are filing an increasing number of costly disputes against governments, often for policy decisions relating to environmental protection, public health, taxation or stakeholder engagement aimed at preventing conflict associated with displacements caused by large land purchases and mining projects.

Losing a case can be crushing: the average award is USD 522 million and payouts in at least nine cases topped USD 1 billion. Disputes can also result in a regulatory chill for host states with investment treaties.

Investment is critical for sustainable development, which requires fundamental changes in how we produce, distribute and dispose of goods. Developing countries need investment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and prepare for the impacts and challenges of climate change.

The goal of the Annual Forum is to ensure that developing countries are able to attract responsible investment that advances sustainable development while safeguarding their legitimate policy space.

Before I encountered IISD... I didn’t know that a bilateral investment treaty is a double-edged sword that can benefit and harm at the same time, depending on how the articles are negotiated and formulated.

Roslyn Ng'eno, Kenya. Read her testimonial about the impact of the Annual Forum and IISD's advisory services in our 2016-2017 Annual Report

"The forum has been an extremely useful platform for countries to share views... The approach that South Africa has taken with respect to upgrading and updating its investment protection regime—including with respect to termination—to a large extent has been validated by the exchanges we’ve had with other countries."

Xavier Carim, South Africa
"When one hears it with one’s own ears from an affected group it becomes personal."

Manjiao Chi explains how hearing a negotiator from a Pacific Island state argue for incorporating a climate change clause in investment agreements at the 7th Annual Forum in Jakarta inspired him to write a book: Integrating Sustainable Development in International Investment Law: Normative Incompatibility, System Integration and Governance Implications

What was on the agenda in Nairobi?

The 11th Annual Forum addressed two major trends that are changing the face of investment negotiations today:

The acceleration of multilateral and regional negotiations.

The expansion of comprehensive economic agreements to include a host of issuessuch as trade, investment, and other economic dimensionsthat had previously been negotiated separately.

What do these trends mean for the role of developing countries in designing next-generation treaties? How do these questions relate to linking investment to sustainable development? How will these trends alter the structure of bilateral investment treaties? What is the most appropriate scope of agreements? Should negotiations be bilateral, regional or multilateral? Would it be more effective to negotiate separate agreements, or should trade and investment be chapters of the same deal?

View the agenda.

Registration was limited to delegates from developing country governments and regional organizations who are actively involved in investment negotiations or disputes. For more information please contact

The 11th Annual Forum of Developing Country Investment Negotiators was be co-hosted by the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the South Centre.

There is a growing consensus that systemic reform is required to ensure that all nations have the policy space and structures required to advance sustainable development and to prepare for the challenges of climate change.

Several countries are leading the charge against the secretive investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime, which gives arbitrators the final say over whether a policy developed in the public interest violates the vague terms of an investment treaty.

A number of countries have formally rejected the regime by terminating all bilateral investment treaties.

Major multilateral institutions have also put ISDS reform on their agendas, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Conference on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

More than 50 developing country governments and regional organizations are using the Annual Forum as a platform to establish a set of common principles on investment.
The South–South Principles on International Investment for Sustainable Development were developed following several rounds of consultations that began at the 9th Annual Forum.

IISD is actively pursuing systemic reform in order to address imbalances in investor–state dispute settlement.

Our work extends well beyond the Annual Forum.

We provide advisory services to developing countries ranging from capacity building workshops to assisting with complex legal questions that arise during the course of negotiating an investment treaty.

We publish tools for negotiators, such as our Best Practices series, along with a respected quarterly journal, Investment Treaty News, in an effort to track trends, identify potential negotiating pitfalls and foster global dialogue.

We engage with institutions such as UNCTAD, OECD, UNCITRAL and UNHCR and others in order to advance multilateral reform.

We host expert meetings and public events to advance a broader understanding of the issues.

For more information about IISD's work, visit our investment topic page and subscribe to our newsletter.